Target is partnering with a Chicago-based startup to create and test an artificial intelligence that will assist with virtual shopping, similar to Amazon's Alexa.
AddStructure is creating similar products for companies and recently participated in the Techstars Retail Accelerator at Target's headquarters in Minneapolis. Target and Techstars invested $120,000 in AddStructure and will continue to work with the tech company.
AddStructure is a natural language processor that is integrated into a company's existing systems, including mobile apps. At a minimum, it provides a voice-activated search, and pilots are about to launch with several brands including Under Armour, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Alexa exists inside Amazon-branded products including the Echo Bluetooth speaker, and it responds to voice commands including ones that order products from Amazon.
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Amazon has been forging partnerships to include Alexa in nonproprietary products including Sonos' whole home audio, the LG SmartThinQ Hub and possibly Lenovo, which is reportedly in talks with the retailer.
Lenovo's involvement is significant as that company is at the forefront of virtual reality technology and its devices could unlock new shopping platforms. Including Alexa would provide a direct line to Amazon.
And now other retailers are hoping to create virtual assistants of their own.